EDITORIAL | April 2, 2020

10 Laws of Disclosure

In my 20+ years working in cyber security, I’ve reported more than 1000 vulnerabilities to a wide variety of companies, most found by our team at IOActive as well as some found by me. In reporting these vulnerabilities to many different vendors, the response (or lack thereof) I got is also very different, depending on vendor security maturity. When I think that I have seen everything related to vulnerability disclosures, I’ll have new experiences – usually bad ones – but in general, I keep seeing the same problems over and over again.

I’ve decided it would be a good idea to write about some Laws of Disclosure in order to help those companies that are not mature enough to improve their vulnerability disclosure processes.

Law 1: The vulnerability reporter is always right

It doesn’t matter if the vulnerability reporter is gross, stupid, or insults you, they have zero-day findings on your technology, so you’d better say “please” and “yes” to everything you can. It’s less complicated to deal with someone you don’t like than dealing with 0days in the wild, hurting your business.

Law 2: Have an easy-to-find and simple way to report vulnerabilities

It shouldn’t take more than a few seconds browsing your website to find how to report a vulnerability. Make it easy and simple as possible; otherwise, you’ll learn about the vulnerability on the news.

Law 3: Your rules and procedures are not important

Some vulnerability reporters don’t care about your rules and procedures for reporting, they don’t want your bounty or compensation. They don’t have to follow your rules; they just want the vulnerability reported and fixed.

Law 4: Keep vulnerability reporter up to date

Never keep the vulnerability reporter in the dark. Instantly acknowledge when you receive a vulnerability report, and then keep the finder posted about your actions and plans.

Law 5: Don’t play dirty

Never try to trick the reporter in any way to buy time or avoid public disclosure. Sooner or later the reporter will find out and 0day you. Time is never on your side, so use it wisely.

Law 6: Compensate

The vulnerability reporter is working for free for you, so always compensate them in some way, like a bounty or at least public acknowledgement and thanks.

Law 7: Forget NDAs and threats

The vulnerability reporter is not part of your company and don’t care about your lawyers. The vulnerability must always be fixed and then published, not hidden.

Law 8: Put the right people in place

Your people handing vulnerability reports should have the right knowledge and proper training. Never put lawyers or marketing people in charge of vulnerability disclosure; vulnerability finders don’t want to hear BS from them.

Law 9: Coordinate

Properly coordinate the release dates of your fix and the vulnerability advisory publication. You don’t want your customers exposed for one second.

Law 10: Always publish

Don’t sweep vulnerabilities under the carpet with silent fixes without telling your customers how and why they should update. If you do, the vulnerability reporter will make sure your customers know it, and they won’t be happy when they find out.

These Laws are based on my own experience, but if I’ve missed something, feel free to share your own experience and help contribute to a better vulnerability disclosure process. Also, if you ever need help with disclosures yourself, let me know via Twitter DM or email. I’ll be happy to help.